Sunday, 23 February 2020

New hotel brand for Australia; new hotel for Darling Harbour

The Best Western hotel group, along with property developer iHHL will launch Australia's first Aiden brand in Sydney later this year.

Aiden by Best Western @ Darling Harbour will be opening in late 2020.

The 88-room, eight-storey property will include a café, bar and retail shop on the ground floor, BWH Hotel Group Australasia Managing Director Graham Perry and iHHL's Nicolas Chen announced.

“Where better to open our first Aiden to Australasia than in the centre of Sydney's iconic leisure precinct, Darling Harbour?” says Perry.

“We're delighted to be partnering with iHHL, who are undertaking the conversion of an iconic Sydney building which will become a superb lifestyle hotel offering high-quality, affordable accommodation for modern travellers.”

Aiden by Best Western @ Darling Harbour will be in a refurbished 1930s Art Deco building located on the western side of Darling Harbour, directly opposite the pedestrian Pyrmont Bridge and near to the entrance of the Harbourside shopping complex.

“We're bringing a touch of Parisian-style hospitality and class to Darling Harbour, featuring well-appointed rooms that focus on the amenities and facilities sought by today's travellers – including media connectivity and plentiful workspace in our high-end custom designed compact rooms," says Chen.

"The end result will be an eminently affordable Sydney CBD-fringe stay in a busy, well located and highly popular precinct.

“Darling Harbour has developed from its historical roots as wharves and industrial warehouses to become a vibrant residential, commercial and entertainment hub.

"We selected the location for our development due to its ideal positioning, close to world-class attractions including the Australian National Maritime Museum, the International Convention Centre (ICC), the Sydney Fish Market, Cockle Bay Wharf, King Street Wharf and Barangaroo.”

The new hotel will join an international network of Aidens across France, Germany, South Korea and the US.

For more information visit

Is the world ready for a chip butty revolution?

The chip butty is something you grow up with; or learn to love.

A chip butty is a sandwich made with fresh, hot potato chips served between slices of buttered white bread or in a bread roll, usually with an added condiment such as Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, or malt vinegar.

The chip butty can be found in fish and chip shops and takeaways across the British Isles, and is a favourite working-class snack, often after a night at the pub.

In South Africa, French-fry sandwiches called Gatsbys and AK-47s (the former in Cape Town, the latter in Johannesburg) are hugely popular in townships. In Durban, home of the bunny chow, chips are are served in a hollowed out half loaf of bread with the crust intact.

Now Burger King has introduced the Chip Butty to its stores in New Zealand; a patty-less sandwich with french fries, mayo and ketchup wedged in between two halves of a bun.

The butty is only available to New Zealand customers right now for $2 (and more with a rasher of bacon added) - but I'm tipping it to become an affordable snack sensation. 

In Australia, Hungry’s Jack’s is offering a cheesy, bacon chip butty - another variation. 

Burger King New Zealand describes its offering as "a dish fit for a King at a price fit for everyone".

One of Burger King's rivals, Wendy's, took aim, saying: "When literally anything would be better on a bun than their beef."

My favourite style: with lashings of butter and plenty of Sarson's vinegar, oh and with slap chips if I'm in Cape Town (but that's another story). 

I reckon Burger King could be on to a winner.  

Friday, 21 February 2020

Eat and drink to raise money for Kangaroo Island

Wine marketer Kate Giles and wine merchant Andrei Eikmeier are among those putting together a Kangaroo Island fundraiser in Adelaide next Thursday night.

Eat Drink Kangaroo Island is a chance to get together and celebrate the produce of Kangaroo Island with chef Nicolas Arriola at La Boca Bar & Grill (below).

After the devastating bush fires that hit the island, the event is seen as the perfect opportunity to showcase what the island does best.

With an auction or two, and the charming Eikmeier at the helm, the dinner aims to raise money for the island communities to rebuild.

The date is Thursday, February 27 from 7-11pm. La Boca @ The Stamford, 150 North Terrace, Adelaide. Tickets are $150 per head and all funds raised will be contributed directly to on-island community beneficiaries.

See and contact La Boca (08) 8461 0394) with any allergies or dietary requirements.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Special exhibition marks Cape Mentelle milestone

Margaret River winery Cape Mentelle is one of the icons of the Australian industry and is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020. 

To mark the milestone, Cape Mentelle has partnered with leading Australian lifestyle photographer Aquabumps, who has been busy over the past few months curating a special photography series that brings the magnificent region to life, as well as the winery’s stories and people over the past 50 years, including legendary founder David Hohnen.

The Cape Mentelle x Aquabumps Explore Your Horizon exhibition and wine tasting experience will take place in Sydney (April 3-5). 

I've always been an admirer of Cape Mentelle but must admit to never having heard of Aquabumps (which is sounds an absurd name to an old fogey like me). His real name is apparently Eugene Tan. 

Established by Hohnen in 1970, Cape Mentelle was one of the first three founding Margaret River wineries that set the region’s benchmark for quality. 

Over the years, the winery has cultivated a sustainable winemaking philosophy and built a worldwide reputation to quality sauvignon blanc. 

The photography exhibition is designed to bring to life the winery’s history, showcasing people and stories over the past 50 years. 

The pop-up will give visitors the opportunity to learn the Cape Mentelle story, taste the range of  Margaret River wines and enjoy the photographic exhibition. 

“Not only is Eugene born and bred in Western Australia, with fond childhood memories of the Margaret River region, he shares the same dedication to his craft as the Cape Mentelle winemaking team," says winemaker Ben Cane. 

Explore your Horizon, North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, Campbell Parade, North Bondi. April 3-5. To book tickets and for more information:

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Artwork celebrates Melbourne's innovative libations

A giant rooftop mural has been created by urban street artist Kitt Bennett to mark the first Melbourne Cocktail Festival (MCF). 

Completed in time for World Bartender Day on Monday, the MCF mural is over 100 metres long and depicts a bartender and martini glass floating over the city’s rooftops and streets. 

Kitt Bennett produced the work in 70 hours over seven days using 100 litres of paint, utilising colours referencing the festival’s logo. 

Running from February 26 to March 1, the Melbourne Cocktail Festival is designed to celebrate Melbourne’s dynamic cocktail scene. 

The five-day grassroots (can cocktails really be grassroots, or is it just a fashionable word to throw into a press release?)  event aims to reflect the city’s creative energy. 

Established by a young team of hospitality professionals from industry hub Worksmith, the MCF will incorporate panel discussions, masterclasses and tasting opportunities. 

Kitt Bennett is one of Melbourne's most prominent and celebrated up-and-coming artists, specialising in large-scale murals on unconventional surfaces. 

"Kitt’s artwork really speaks to the city and I particularly like how this one is hidden from view," says Michael Bascetta, CEO of Worksmith. 

"Some of Melbourne’s best bars are hidden down laneways or found in neighbourhoods outside of the city centre with little-to-no signage. Somehow it's the discovery that makes them even more exciting - the same with Kitt’s work. What better way to celebrate the underground bar scene than with a rooftop artwork?” 

Tickets for the Melbourne Cocktail Festival are on sale now via 

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Discover inclusive getaways on lovely Bruny Island

I few weeks back I stayed at the delightful Free Spirit Pods on Bruny Island, Tasmania's delightful get-away-from-it-all destination.

The pods are set in native bush land with shore walks and lots of wildlife.

Now the folk behind Free Spirit Pods have created three different tour packages that start and end in Hobart and include transport and accommodation.

The trio of two- and three-night packages are available through to December 1, 2020.

It's Beautiful Bruny Day

This deal includes two nights' accommodation in a luxury waterfront pod at North Bruny including breakfast supplies, the use of all facilities including barbecues, a fire pit, two-person kayaks and fishing gear as well as two-day car hire supplied by Drive Car Hire with pick up and drop off from either downtown Hobart or the airport. From $1,160 per couple.

Get Me Outta Here
This deal includes a three-night break with breakfasts, all inclusions as above and three days of car hire. From $1515 per couple. 

Stay Calm and Be Spoilt on Bruny
Three nights in 4.5 star accommodation, including breakfast provisions, arrival in style with Above and Beyond Seaplanes from Hobart to Quarantine Bay – a 200-metre stroll to your waterfront pod, three days of car hire with your car pre-delivered, and a three-hour Pennicott Wilderness Journey including lunches. This cruise (above) explores the spectacular rugged coastline of Bruny, taking in Australia’s highest sea cliffs and join the search for seals, dolphins, migrating whales and sea birds. From $2,893 per couple.

For details of all three packages visit

Monday, 17 February 2020

Head to the country for two days of food and wine

One of the best - and most atmospheric - country wine and food festivals in Australia is the Grampians Grape Escape at Hall Gap in Victoria.

The latest edition of this festival of regional wine, food and music will be held over the weekend of May 2-3 with guests promised a range of taste sensations from spicy shiraz to sticky loukoumades and cheesy arancini.

There will be over 100 exhibitors offering their wares along with masterclasses and cooking demonstrations.

The music stage will feature everything from Americana blues to heavy flamenco and trop-pop. 

There will also be plenty of free activities for kids including grape stomping.

Guest presenters include Lynton Tapp, Melissa Leng, Peter Russell-Clarke and Peter Hilcke (I'll admit I have only heard of two of them), while there will also be wine materclasses, curry cooking classes and a look at whisky with Timboon Railway Shed Distillery.

The festivities run from 10am-5.30pm on both days at Halls Gap Recreation Reserve (check out the superb views).

For prices and to buy tickets visit the festival website at:

#Images: Tony Evans